Best Radar Detectors: Stay Ahead of Radar Guns
Get a heads up on speed traps with these top devices
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PUBLISHED ON July 16, 2019
Radar detectors are excellent tools for helping you stay protected from speeding tickets. They’re designed to alert you to police officers actively using radar nearby, giving you enough time to respond accordingly.
Not every radar detector is created equal and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Everyone wants to know which radar detector is the “best.” However, while some are definitely better than others, there is no one radar detector that is universally the best for every person in every situation.
In the same way, the Toyota Prius, Ford Raptor, and Ferrari 488 GTB are all great at what they do, but they’re very different vehicles designed for different purposes and so deciding which vehicle is “best” for you actually depends a lot on your specific needs. The same thing applies to high-performance radar detectors. Let’s look at all the best radar detectors, along with their different specialties, features, and price points, and help you choose which one would best suit your specific needs.
- Best OverallUniden R7SummarySummaryThe best radar detector with the longest detection range available.ProsProsGreat long-range detection. Comes with a number of useful features like an integrated GPS and false alarm alert source detection.ConsConsLockouts are manual, firmware updates can be tricky.
- Best ValueUniden DFR7SummarySummaryA great budget radar detector that offers decent performance at a great price.ProsProsGood sensitivity. Straightforward to set up for the first time before using.ConsConsNo arrows, basic display, no MRCD support, reduced range.
- Honorable MentionEscort Max 360cSummarySummaryA high-end radar detector that is just a tad under the best options in terms of range and capabilities.ProsProsArrows, false alert filtering is more automatic, quiet against most false alerts, automatic firmware updates, can share alerts in realtime with other drivers.ConsConsLess range than the best performers, no MRCD support, price.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Radar Detectors
- Detect radar guns from afar. The main point of a radar detector is to detect the radar gun before it detects you. While a radar detector doesn’t always need to be used to avoid the police, they do give you a decent idea of where common speed traps are to adjust your driving.
- Drive safer. Beyond just driving safely to avoid speeding tickets, many radar detectors can also detect other common hazards and radar signal sources, making you pay more attention to your surroundings.
- Red light camera and speed camera alerts. Using built-in GPS databases, many new radar detectors can also alert you to redlight cameras and speed cameras around town.
Types of Radar Detectors
Windshield Mount: Corded
Corded radar detectors make it easy to supply power to the device anytime the car is on. Most corded options plug right into the car’s 12-volt power outlet. These can be difficult to install since the cord adds some extra bulk to secure and get out of the way if you want to maximize the space inside the vehicle. Usually, this requires running the cord around the interior trim. You can also hardwire the detector into your fuse box for a cleaner install with no cable hanging down your dash. This way, you can mount the detector near the top of the windshield for better results.
Windshield Mount: Cordless
Cordless radar detectors make it easier to install the device inside a vehicle without worrying about cord management. You can mount the detector nearly anywhere in the vehicle for the best results. Given the battery power, however, you will need to keep the device charged. The device may also remain on when the car turns off. Unfortunately, there aren't any cordless detectors right now that offer the same level of performance as corded and custom options.
A few high-end radar detectors actually mount in the grill area via permanent installation. These tend to be hidden from view with a controller and display installed in your dash. Installation usually requires a professional and these cost several times more than a comparable windshield mount.
The main part of a radar detector is the actual detector. Using a superheterodyne receiver, radar detectors can pick up the radio frequencies radars use when they bounce waves off an object to determine the speed (known as the Doppler effect). Radar guns can be handheld like a gun, dash-mounted in the officer’s vehicle so they can work they drive, or connected to a camera for photo radar applications where they mail you a ticket. Radar can be shot out the front, sides, and rear of a police car. Police radar devices tend to use different types of radar bands that use different frequencies: K band operates around 24 GHz; Ka band operates around 33.8, 34.7, and 35.5 GHz.
False Alert Filtering
False alerts are a common issue with radar detectors. Radar detectors pick up not only police radar guns, but they also detect various sources of radar including speed signs on the side of the road, automatic door openers in drugstores, and radar-based collision avoidance systems built into many newer vehicles. That is why most detectors come with different modes that change the sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver. City modes, for example, adjust the receiver in urban environments to filter out more common signal sources, reducing false alerting. Highway modes, on the other hand, decrease the selectivity. A detector with GPS tagging can automatically change the modes, depending on the vehicle’s location (in addition to remembering camera locations). Some modes can also detect other things like red light cameras.
Red Light Camera / Speed Camera Alerts
In addition to alerting you to radar threats, radar detectors with GPS typically have an updateable database that can give you advanced warning to ticket-issuing redlight cameras and speed cameras.
- Legality: It’s important to note that radar detectors aren’t always legal in all states and cities. They are legal to use in most of the US, with a few exceptions. They are illegal in most Canadain provinces. Learn about radar detector laws. In certain areas, police officers use special radar detector detectors. A few radar detectors are designed with special stealth technology that makes them undetectable to RDD’s.
- Hardwiring: Radar detectors come with a power cable that plugs into your 12-volt outlet. However, if your car doesn’t have an outlet or you’d prefer a cleaner installation with no cable hanging down your windshield and dash, you can hardwire your radar detector. When hardwired, your radar detector wires into your fuse box for power so the cable is tucked away and hidden behind your vehicle’s trim. This way, you have a much more stealthy and good looking install.
Best Radar Detectors Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Uniden R7
Easily one of the best radar detectors on the market is the Uniden R7. It offers the longest range out of any windshield mount radar detector, period. It’s, for this reason, that for any drivers who demand the highest level of protection take a good look at the R7. Uniden detectors are known both for their all-out performance on their high-end detectors as well as their bang for the buck on their low-end detectors.
Additionally, the R7 comes packed with a bunch of other useful features that make for a better driving experience. It offers arrows to help you locate the threats around you. This way when it goes off, you’ll know immediately if the officer is ahead of you, when you pass him, and when the threat is behind you. The integrated GPS allows you to teach the detector where false alerts are located around town from speed signs on the side of the road and automatic door openers in front of drugstores and grocery stores. Once you do that, the detector will stay quiet along your regular commute.
The biggest complaint that people have with the R7, however, is its blindspot monitoring (BSM) filtering. The detector is pretty good at filtering blind spot monitoring systems from other cars, but it still falses a fair amount, especially compared to the competition. The latest updates have helped in this regard though. No detector can filter them out entirely, but the R7 will false alert a little more than others. So the performance is awesome, but it is a chattier detector. That is the trade-off with the R7.
Best Value: Uniden DFR7
The Uniden DFR7 is the best city/highway detector you’ll find if you’re looking for the lowest price possible that still offers reasonable performance and false alert filtering. It’s the predecessor to the DFR9 and is in the process of being discontinued, but until it’s totally gone, it’s being discounted heavily and is an amazing deal.
It offers the same performance and false alert filtering as the DFR9 (same platform under the hood), but it has a more basic black and white OLED display, there’s no auto-dimming display (you change display brightness manually), and it lacks some of the more granular controls over detector sensitivity.
Most detectors in this price range feature-poor performance and/or filtering to get down to the price point, but the DFR7’s capabilities are still pretty reasonable.
Honorable Mention: Escort Max 360c
Another popular high-end radar detector is the feature-packed Escort Max 360c. It’s very similar to the R7 in many ways. The range isn’t as extreme, but it has more helpful features, it’s better at filtering out false alerts, and it’s more automated and hands-free. If the R7 is the high-performance option, the Max 360c is more of your casual plug-and-play option. This is one of the best choices for your everyday driver.
Max 360c is a pretty well-rounded detector for most people. It gives good performance while still doing a good job at filtering out false alerts. It also features Escort’s AutoLearn technology so after you drive past the same stationary false alerts several times (like drugstores and grocery stores), the detector will automatically learn those alerts and filter them out for you. The more you drive with it, the quieter it gets. Other detectors may let you do this manually with you marking what’s a false alert and what’s not, but the Escort can do this automatically as you drive.
Cell phone integration also adds a lot. You can pair it with your phone via Bluetooth and run the app Escort Live (Android and iOS) to connect the detector to the cloud. This allows you to not only more easily change settings, but it can also share alerts in real-time with other drivers, giving you an additional layer of protection as drivers up ahead of you alert you to radar, laser, and police spotted alerts. Through the Cloud, the detector can also display the current speed limit right next to your current speed, a handy feature while driving.
- Keep in mind that a radar detector can potentially be a distraction while driving. Choose one with voice alerts and voice control to maintain eye contact with the road for the safest driving setup.
- Keep your radar detector inside when not in use. Heat on hot summer days can damage the radar detector if left out for too long.
- Even in areas where radar detectors are legal, there may be extra laws that determine how and where you can mount it in your vehicle. In general, low mounting positions with suction cups on the dashboard are preferable.
Q. What are sensitivity and selectivity?
A. Sensitivity is essentially how well a radar detector actually picks up signals. The more sensitive a detector is, the better it detects signals, especially weak ones. Selectivity refers to a detector’s ability to ignore signal sources that can cause false alerts. Some detectors have better digital signal processing for signal rejection than others.
Q. Can police detector radar detectors?
A. Yes. Radar detector detectors like Spectre and VG-2 can identify the use of certain radar detectors, though there are radar detectors that are fully undetectable by RDD’s.
Q. How can I reduce the number of false radar detections my detector picks up?
A. Buy a newer radar detector that is designed to filter out the various sources of false alerts. Keep your detector updated and use the various filtering options available to help it filter out non-police radar alerts.
While we feature a lot of different radar detector options, our top pick for the best overall radar detector is the Uniden R7 for its advanced detection capabilities and extra features other detectors simply lack.
Save some money with our top value pick, the Uniden DFR7.